I have been working as a Vice-Principal since August, 2005. I have had the opportunity to work in three very different schools. For my first 2 1/2 years as a Vice-Principal, I was placed in a middle-class school with a high degree of parent involvement. My second school was in a working-class area with a highly multi-cultural community. The school had a high number of English Language Learners.
I started my third school at the beginning of this school year. This school is different from the other two, in that, it is an Inner-City school with a large number of Aboriginal students (the highest of all elementary schools in our large district). While I have learned a great deal at each of the schools I have worked as a Vice-Principal, the learning at an Inner-City school is somewhat different.
10 Things I’ve Learned by Being a Vice Principal of an Inner City School
- The most effective teachers (and leaders), who make a real difference with kids in Inner City schools (or all schools, for that matter), focus on relationships first. Relationships are key for all members of the education team – teachers, students, parents, community members, and administration. We must open our hearts to our students and their families in order to make a meaningful difference (see this blog post).
- Don’t underestimate idol “chit chat”. Building relationships involves some informal talks (chit chat) with parents and care-givers. This must not be taken for granted, especially if you work in an inner city school. This type of talk can be very Powerful in building those relationships with families in inner city schools, which will help when the going gets tough.
- Your attitude is everything and can make the most profound difference when dealing with students, teachers, parents, and community members.
- Kids mean well. They really do. We need to believe in them. (See this blog post for some suggestions). We should be Charmed by them, get to know them, and remember that our reactions to their behaviour is what makes the difference. It is not about Power and Control and we need to remember this in our reactions and the way we deal with our students and their families.
- We need to work with the most troubled students, get to know them, let them know we sincerely care, and then, in turn, in time, they will want to be good for us. The work of Gordon Neufeld (and Colleen Drobot) has changed me as an educator, administrator, and parent (see this blog post for detail information about Gordon Neufeld’s developmental approach). “We can’t have their minds until we have their hearts.” (see this blog post)
- We need to be disciplining students in ways that are Attachment-safe and Developmentally Friendly (see this blog post).
- We need to think of different ways to engage parents and guardians. The monthly school newsletter may not be enough anymore. See this blog post for some suggestions.
- Do not give up hope. Anything is possible – we must always remember that (see this blog post telling a personal account of how important this is to me).
- Engagement is key. Students need to WANT to be at school, in order to actually come. When they are at school, we need to try to ensure that they are engaged with what they are doing. To do this, it is important to make the work they do at school meaningful and differentiated according to their level and learning style.
- It takes Courage, each and every day, to be the leader we need to be to make a difference that matters.
I have learned a great deal in the short time I have been a Vice-Principal at an inner city school. While I am sure much of what I have learned was learned before this year, working at an inner city school has just made me look at things differently. Not only that, working at an inner city has made me reflect more about my own life and upbringing. It has made me think of my students in another way and allowed me to reach out to them in a more personal, meaningful, understanding manner. Working here has made me more accepting of myself, if you will.
What have you learned in your role lately?